Role of the Pastor 5: Feeding the Sheep

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Shepherds have to feed the sheep.  That should be obvious, but there are a lot of pastors who are not feeding the sheep.  You cannot exaggerate how important it is for the pastors to feed the sheep.  You just cannot overestimate how important this is.  Your preaching to the gathering of the saints is so important – it is one of your primary roles, your key functions as a shepherd, to ensure the sheep are fed.

Earlier we discussed leading the sheep and how important that is, but you cannot lead people you do not feed.  Some people are trying to lead people they don’t feed, and they become controlling and harsh.  If you feed people, they will follow and your church will grow.  If you give people good food, your church will grow.  Some people might not like the food, some people aren’t sheep they are goats – let them go, but keep feeding the people and you will attract a flock.

Parents have authority over their children because they feed them.  When you leave home, get a job and feed yourself, your parents authority diminishes.  Feeding is so important for leading, so important for pastoring.  Jesus told Peter three times in a row: “Feed My Sheep”.  Feeding is vital.

Every pastor must be a preacher and your preaching is where you feed the sheep.  This is key. And we are living in the age Paul warns Pastor Timothy about:

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim. 4.3-4)

People seem to rather go to a service where they are anointed with oil, where they are given a prophetic word, where there is gold dust and barking dogs, where they are taught about secular psychology and fables made up by men rather than listen to the Word.  The temptation to reduce the preaching of the Word and replace with entertainment.  Some pastors are preaching less than 6-10 minutes on a Sunday morning.  That is not feeding the sheep a meal, that is a bag of Doritos!  That is not a meal!  That will not give the sheep strength to receive healing, to advance the kingdom, to enjoy their career, to love their families.  You need to feed the sheep. You must preach the Word!

Here are three things I believe are vital to a successful feeding ministry:

1. Preparation. You must prepare what you are going to feed to ensure the sheep get a healthy, living and balanced diet.  You cannot just walk into the pulpit and say what you like.  There has been a move recently to see notes as fleshly, but taking the time to prepare is never fleshly – it’s godly.  I preach in months – each month has a theme that fits into the theme for the year.  I am all about building something into people’s minds.  Me just shouting about my hobby horse is not good enough.  You need to plan, research, prepare.  What Scriptures are you using, in what order, what is the point you are making.

2.  Keep to the point.  People like rabbit trails and side points occasionally.  Imagine they are like salt and pepper.  Just a little to give it flavour, but if you are continually going off point you haven’t prepared enough.  It takes me a whole day at least to prepare a message.  Lazy preachers and lazy pastors don’t prepare the food and don’t season it.  They are feeding their church Iceland frozen chicken nuggets and wonder why the church are spiritually malnourished. 

You are called to feed the sheep.  You are called to prepare the best for them.  Choose your points, meditate on your points, consider how the sermon is structured.  Introduce the sermon by telling the people what you preached last week and how it links to this week, tell the people what your points are and where you are going with the message – it’s a good habit to help you keep on track.  Then preach.  Then conclude well.  Prepare and plan how you are going to end.  Will you end with an appeal to change, will you end with an illustration that they are going to take away?  You need to decide before hand.

Of course, someone will tell you that planning is not spiritual, that you should just open your mouth and let it flow.  There are times when that is what to do.  There are occasions when the Lord will lead you a different way.  But mostly when people do that they ramble, they drift, they make no clear point, but rather a hundred different little points none of which impact anyone’s life for the better.  Here’s a revelation: the Holy Spirit can guide the planning!  Let your planning be Spirit-led and you find you don’t have to “go with the flow of the moment” in the pulpit so much any more!

I think some preachers need a big sign at the back of the church that says “WHAT IS THE POINT?” so when they are preaching they know they are making a point!

3.  Let the sheep feed from you.  Jesus said something that requires a lot of consideration: if you don’t eat my flesh you are not part of me.  Sheep need to feed on the shepherd.  What do I mean?  You need to let them see and let them hear that the Word works for you.  If you are teaching healing, talk about a time you laid hands on someone and they got healed.  Let the people see you are talking about what you know.  When you preach on loyalty and are calling for a commitment to the church, let the people know how committed you are.  You need to be careful doing this because your goal is to preach the gospel and teach the kingdom, but principles without practical application wash over people’s head.

At our summer conference once, we raised an offering and it was very low.  It was just under £300 which was very low for the amount of people in the room, and low compared to the costs we needed to pay.  In addition, I was the one who put in £200 into the offering.  So I got up and I told people that I believe in this conference and that if I could put in more money than the rest of the room put together there was a problem.  We received a second offering that came to a lot higher, and I have heard many testimonies of people who received a great return from that offering.  By showing people that I work the Word, I am encouraging – which literally means giving courage to – people to work the same principles.

Remember your examples are not the message: they are the encouragement to get the message.  You teach the Word, but in teaching the Word you have to show that you believe it’s integrity and you are not preaching what you do not practice, but rather you preach what you practice.

Role of the Pastor 3: To Divide Seas

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Part of your ministry as a pastor is to lead the people to green pastures and still waters.  You need to take your people out of the wilderness and into the land flowing with milk and honey, a land of abundance and peace.  This is part of being a shepherd to your people.  If you don’t have a destination, you don’t have a destiny.  The word “destin-y” means the path to your “destin-ation”.  At the Tree of Life Church, we talk about dreams, schemes and themes.  Dreams are our destination – where we are going.  Schemes are our plan to get there, and themes are the plan to take the next step.  We can’t sit down and dream, we have to dream while we walk.

However, sometimes leading people somewhere is hard for them.  There are obstacles in their way – wild seas that they cannot cross. As a pastor, you are called to be like Moses: “But you, lift up thy rod and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (Exodus 14.15 and 16).

Part of your role is to ensure the path to the promised land is visible and tangible to the people.  A true shepherd loves the sheep and wants the sheep to have abundance and success, and so they find out from God what actions make a way for people to get into the promised land.

You must learn how to make a way for people where there seems to be no way.  This could cover all sorts of things – once a man in our church said he was going to leave our church and find another one.  I asked why, and was there anything I could do to change his mind.  He told me no because his house was too far from our church.  So the next day, in the evening I jumped in my car and drove to his house.  I knocked on the door and when it opened I said “it’s not that far”.  By making that journey, he saw the journey wasn’t that far.  As a pastor, I made a way where he couldn’t see a way.  If you can visit them, they cannot think that their house is too far for them to come to you!  If people realize they are not too far for you to visit, they will feel safer at the church.

You need to split the seas that stop people from getting married in your church.  Don’t just look at someone all sad when they complain about their singleness – teach them how to find a marriage partner.  Teach them what kind of person to look for.  Teach them the warning signs that show they are about to marry a loser.  Help people notice one another in the church as well!

Teach people that they can find good marriage partners within the church, it brings great stability when people marry in the church. I’m not saying play Cupid, I’m not saying force people to get married, I’m certainly not saying prophesy marriage, or even promise a happy marriage.  Marriage is hard work, and if you force people to get married they will hate you!  But seriously, make a way – part some seas.

You need to part seas when it comes to finding work for people.   Teach your people how to find work, how to work hard, how to succeed in a job.  You also need to help people find work – if someone in the church is an employer, then talk to them about a sheep that needs some employment.  Sometimes the person you recommend will embarrass you, but don’t let that get in the way of you being a sea-splitter!  It’s not enough for you to preach about crossing seas, you have to make a way!

You need to part the seas of attendance.  You might have to change a meeting time or a rehearsal time for one person.  We just changed the dates of our summer conference for just a handful of people – it’s called being a sea-splitter.  The year before the conference wasn’t during the school holidays of every London borough and so certain people could not attend, and I failed in my sea-splitting ministry.  At the end of the conference, I vowed not again – and now I am embracing making a way for people to attend.  Make things convenient for people.  In London you have to start meetings a bit later because some people work later.  That is a sea splitter!

If you struggle with this: try having less meetings.  Meet your people on Sunday.  They are there anyway, so have your leader’s meetings, your deacon’s meetings and your children’s workers meetings on a Sunday after church rather than make people come out another time in the week.  Don’t make someone travel twice when they could travel once.  It took a while for me to see this clearly, I will admit, but this is part of your ministry as a pastor: make a way.  

Listen – people always make excuses.  Deal with them:

“Your church service is too long” – “How long is your favourite film?”

“The church is too far from my house” – “How long is your daily commute to work?”

“I don’t have shoes” – “I will buy you some shoes”

You need to part seas when it comes to growing up.  Everyone in your church needs to know there is a pathway forward for them growing up.  Teach them how to read the Bible for themselves, give them a place where they can ask questions, point them in the direction of good articles, good teachers, good books.  I am always giving books to my leaders – because I want them to grow.  I want people to see a clear path.  How to flow in the gifts, how to behave in church.  It all needs to be made clear.

You need to part seas when it comes to a place of significance.  Everyone in your church needs to know there is a clear path for them to be a significant part of the church.  Encourage people to join small groups, to serve on the rota and to give generously to the church.  Explain that doing these things makes the people pillars in the church – people who the church cannot do without.  And whenever people get saved and healed – they made it happen!

You need to part the seas of ministry as well.  Don’t hold onto the ministry too tightly.  Delegate.  Have a short mini-preach before the sermon so people can get used to standing up in front of people, give people small groups to run, let people preach in the satellite churches (and lead worship) so they can get used to what they are doing.  Make a way for people to enter into their ministerial dreams. We have invested so much in ensuring Charis Bible College London happens for example, not just because it’s great to have a Charis on the doorstep (hence, being a sea splitter for people who want to go to college) but so that the people who run the college are now walking in their dreams, being a sea splitter for them.

If you are a pastor, you are a sea splitter. Get used to it, and get doing it!

Loyalty 6… Signs of Disloyalty 3: Criticism

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Hi there, my name is Benjamin Conway, and I am the pastor of Tree of Life Church in Dagenham.  We are currently looking at the topic of Loyalty – something you need to cultivate as a leader. 

As soon as someone gets to the passive stage of disloyalty (stage 2, as discussed here), you need to know that the next step is criticism.  It’s an easy step – someone gets to the stage where they are annoyed and offended to the point where they stop building the house, they are now in a position to start criticizing how the house is being built.

Someone quits the children’s ministry – not because God is leading them to a new opportunity, but because of offense.  Leave it a while because they will next start to subtly attack the children’s ministry:

“They don’t care for the kids anymore…”

“It’s too worldly…”

“It’s too religious”

“If I was still there, I would…”

They have now stopped building the wall and started ripping down the wall.  They have stopped living for the vision and started finding fault with the vision.  You can only move into the critical phase if you have first stopped working.  People on the team don’t rip the team apart – only the people who have left the team spectate and criticize the team!

When someone is critical you need to watch out – you have an explosion coming.  Now – you might not know that person is critical because they may take their criticisms elsewhere.  But you need to know that a critical person is hard to help.

At this stage, someone will ask “what about a legitimate criticism?”,  That’s a great question, and there are three simple ways to tell the difference between a legitimate criticism and a critical attitude that will lead to disloyalty.

1.  A genuine criticism can be resolved.  Let’s say you were round someone’s house and broke a lamp or something.  They may have genuine reason to criticize you.  But if you buy them a new lamp of equivalent value and style, then it has been resolved.  A critical attitude cannot be resolved.  The person is offended and nothing will make them happy.  You can try a few times but it won’t work.

2.  A genuine criticism is reasonable.  Other people can see it – if you are wise, you can hear the truth in it yourself.  A critical attitude is unreasonable.  A genuine criticism is that the sound quality at the back of the hall was not good today.  A critical attitude wants you to resign, the board to resign and all the elders to resign as they don’t have the right revelations.

3. A genuine criticism is constructive.  The person giving the criticism wants to help, wants to move things forward – they are looking for unity, restoration, progress and building.  A critical attitude is destructive – it wants to rip things apart, it wants to hurt, it wants the win.  Often people who are insecure end up in this stage quickly – the only way they can feel good about themselves is ensuring everyone else feels bad about themselves so they lay into people.

Dealing with this phase is difficult.  People are warm – they are getting hot and are ready to explode quickly and they move onto the political phase quickly.  We will discuss that next week, but let’s conclude this week with three steps to handle critical people in your church, business or camp:

1.  Don’t give them responsibility.  They have probably taken themselves out of any position that involves work in the passive stage, but now they will look for a position that involves responsibility over other performance but no actual work.  Don’t do it.  Don’t be pressured by it.  If someone explodes because you didn’t make them an elder, rejoice – they would have exploded AS an elder at some point and it’s good that didn’t happen.

2. Don’t let criticism from those with attitude get to you.  Don’t even respond to it.  You are not criticism led, you are Spirit led.  That’s a fact.  You should not even respond.  I don’t respond to emails that just tear down, I don’t respond to people who rip me apart and attack our church.  I don’t respond – not even one bit.  I don’t move, I don’t change what I am doing, I don’t fret about it, I don’t lose sleep over it.  Their behaviour is their responsibility.  Their attitude is their responsibility.  I am responsible before God to do what I am called to do.

(As an aside, Facebook is the best way to criticize me if you want to – it has a block button and everything.  It’s awesome!)

3.  Don’t fight fire with fire.  When someone comes at your with criticism, the temptation is point out that they are not all that.  It is a real temptation to tear them to pieces.  Don’t do it.  Bless those who curse you.

Loyalty (part 1)

One of the most important keys in living a successful life is learning the principles behind loyalty. We live in a generation which has largely forgotten the principles of loyalty – and therefore has forgotten the keys to qualification to success.  In a day in which people denigrate local churches, rebel against legitimate authority and hate being led; it is important to grasp loyalty.

Loyalty is the number one qualification to minister. An immature person believes that gifting is the door opener to ministry, but that is not true. When you mature, you discover that faithful and loyal people are the best leaders. An immature person would think that being a nice guy makes for the best pastor, that being a skilful orator makes for the best preacher. But the Scripture could not be more clear:

IT IS REQUIRED IN STEWARDS, THAT A MAN BE FOUND FAITHFUL (LOYAL) (1 Corinthians 4.2).

The pastors in the Tree of Life Church network are not promoted for their good looks, friendly nature or preaching gifts. They are promoted because they are loyal. Loyal people are the best gifts a church can have.

Jesus said that you will know you are His disciples not by gifting or anointing but by love. Loyalty is a form of love – and people are attracted to loyal people. Church people are not blind. They are not deaf. They can tell if you are discordant. They can feel if you are disloyal. If the water is murky – the sheep will not go near it. And then you are frustrated that you are not moving forward in ministry, but you don’t know there is no crocodile in the waters unless they are still waters.

There are several manifestations of disloyalty but the main one is criticism. Disloyalty leads to you noticing and magnifying faults. In the church you find fault with the preaching, with the order of service, with the building, with the systems, with the people, with the structure of the church.

Just like Miriam became critical of Moses: it was by following Moses she got free from Egypt. It was by following Moses she was no longer a slave. It was by Moses that she was redeemed. But now all she could see was Moses’ faults and flaws. She spoke out publicly about Moses’ marriage. She criticised him out loud. Disloyalty has a voice.

“And Miriam spoke against Moses” (Numbers 12.1)

Disloyal people are like eagles’ looking for faults. Scrutinizing the church to find fault. They create an atmosphere that can break a church into pieces. Disloyalty can destroy a church faster than anything else.  If people are insecure and aren’t comfortable in a place, they will rather than look at themselves and challenge themselves will look for someone to blame.  That happens a lot in churches – if you are pastor, don’t beat yourself up over it.  Don’t try and please everyone – that’s called the number one way to ensure you never have a church over 100.  People will always threaten to leave if you take their ministry away, change to songs they don’t like, or lead them forward.

Your point of view depends on your viewpoint. If you are looking for faults you will find them. If you are looking with critical eyes you will always find something to criticise. If you look with loving eyes, you will always find something to love.

Absalom could only see the deficiencies of David’s kingship. But the problem was in his eyes. 

Doctors make oaths to respect their teachers, but people in churches sometimes get a little success and a little promotion and forget who loved them there, who helped them there, who taught them what they know. The deception of disloyalty is that it makes people think they don’t need leadership anymore, that they don’t need help, that God’s structures don’t work because of a small problem in the system.

Our goal in the Tree of Life Church is to create a culture of loyalty. That we all have a reverence and genuine love for leadership. That we grasp what it takes to move forward as the body of Christ.

So, how can we develop that culture. Here are three simple keys that will help you develop a culture of loyalty:

1. The NORTH WIND face

“The north wind drives away rain; so does an angry face drive away a biting tongue” (Proverbs 25.23)

The first key is when you hear someone biting, someone running down the church, the leaders, the people, the building, the service: give them a facial expression that shuts them up. Show someone clearly you are not interested in their gossip and their conversation. This will deter most of the problem straight away. This will create a culture of loyalty and unity. If people realize disloyal talk is not welcome, then they will cease from it.

Sometimes disloyal talk is about flattering you to put someone else down. Don’t fall for it. “Oh the only reason I am at this church is because of you” is nice to hear but it will puff you up and divide the church. Give them a withering look. It works!

They said of David he killed his tens of thousands when he had only killed one. Don’t fall for your own press! 

Gossip is a KILLER.  We still haven’t accepted it, we still don’t believe it.  We happily roast people for dinner and happy go out for coffee and feast on the bones of our colleagues, family and church members.

2. Don’t go somewhere your heart isn’t in

If you are in a church, especially if in leadership, and your heart isn’t in it, remove your body as well. It helps! You can’t change a church from within, you can only split it!

“A LITTLE LEAVEN LEAVENS THE WHOLE LUMP” (1 Cor. 5.6)

One disgruntled elder can pollute the whole church. Never manipulate people to stay in your Living Church, in your group, in the Tree of Life if their heart is gone. Let them go. It’s that simple.

Some pastors are too soft to remove disloyal, grumbling, divisive people. They don’t protect the sheep from being polluted. 

I’m not talking about leaving because you are having a carnal fit.  People do that to churches all the time.  I’m talking about you know the vision isn’t your vision but you are there to “help” the leadership.  Get over yourself – God has a place for you where you will fit in – it won’t be perfect but it will be real.  Most people don’t leave when their visions clash, but hold on until they are well and truly offended, storm off and never go to church again.  Get a grip – harness those emotions and realize who you are!

3. Set fire to some stuff

In Acts 28 they built a fire, and a snake came out of the fire when it was lit. They picked up a snake thinking it was a harmless stick. But when the fire came the snake jumped out.

Some people look lovely and harmless and wonderful, but when fire comes you find out they are snakes. You change a procedure, ban a certain song, don’t let them lead something the way they want to and they bite. Trials and difficulties reveal people’s nature. The truth is that anyone who wants to do God’s will ends up getting bitten – it happened to Jesus, to Paul, to all people. 

Do not be in a hurry to promote people. Try not promoting them – try taking their responsibilities away from them for a while. That kind of fire reveals people’s hearts. If they were disloyal because you didn’t promote them, rejoice – they would have taken the position and used it as a platform to be disloyal.

A person’s reaction to change is a revelation of their character.

These THREE things will help all of us walk in the unity that God has for us. There is a lot in this post, but if you take it to heart it will lift you and help you be all you can be.

 

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